Social networking sites are more popular among the teens and that too for social networking purposes. Obviously these sites are meant for that but there is definitely something more to them than just a few comments and posts and just tagging the images of friends. When computer was first invented, it was used for bigger purposes than just maintaining records of domestic bills (many home makers would agree to this point). However, as time passed, computers went on to become integral parts of offices, schools, homes and now have become indispensable parts of individual lives. What used to be a one-computer per locality set-up has now transformed or evolved to multiple computers per home set-up. Such is the power of technology that has made our lives easier, made carrying out tasks easier, and definitely saves loads of our effort and time. The concern here is however, not the use of computer, but the use of social networking sites in our day to day lives, especially for students. Similar to how computer was used for specific purposes earlier, Social Networking Sites (SNS) also started off as platforms where one could remain in touch with old friends and make new friends of strangers. With time, these sites have come to be used for other purposes as well; education is just one of them to mention here. Â Â
Students today; school and college level, are comfortable sharing their concerns as well as homework on these SNS. Like it is easier to find like-minded people on these sites, it is easier (read time saving) to even find practical answers to questions from textbooks. However, this is a realm that is yet to gain popularity among teachers and parents who may be aware of the SNS as distractions for teenagers and students. At best, parents and teachers are aware of the hazards of SNS and how they intrude the security and privacy areas of their wards. What they are not aware of is the immense potential these sites have of providing quality education. Not that they would disapprove of this; lack of knowledge among parents and teachers has so far prevented this from becoming a reality. With proper know-how of these sites, educators can wonderfully use these as tools to impart education. Students are generally drawn towards technology and they highly appreciate teaching methods that are interesting and innovative. Therefore, SNS have amazing capacity to cater to students in this way; the only catch is the educators understand and apply it.
Christine Greenhow, Doctor of Education from the University of Minnesota has conducted several researches that prove this point and beyond. One of her research shows that no matter what economical background a student belonged to, he/she nevertheless was well acquainted with the Internet and a sizeable percent, 82 percent, of them logged in from home. They also found that almost 58 percent of those studied on had an account on a SNS. This hints toward the increasing technical know-how among students across various backgrounds. Also, these sites offer motivational benefits too, like excitement to reach the next level in games, quizzes available in these sites. This excitement could be tapped and similar methods applied to make a math class interesting for students who may not be very fond of the subject. Also, what Greenhow found out during her research is that rather than becoming victims of cyber bullying (as is claimed by the media), teens sought to the SNS for emotional support and motivation! In this way, besides catching up with friends, students used these sites to catch up on their studies too.
Greenhow, in her doctoral thesis â€˜From Blackboard to Browserâ€™, highlighted the assumptions and expectations of the teachers on the SNS and how they used or did not use the Internet to impart teaching in the classrooms. Through her study she found that teachers who used the Internet in the classrooms encouraged â€˜constructivismâ€™ among students as compared to teachers, who did not. Therefore, the potential of the SNS has first to be gauged and understood by the teachers so that they could guide students in the right direction and not let them enjoy just the limited benefits of these sites such as making friends and networking with strangers. The SNS are easy to sign-up and use and educators who have a complete know how of these sites can discover newer ways of using them as tools for imparting education among students.
This scenario appears to be improving now, and changing toward the better way. More and more educators are now signing up to SNS like Facebook and many of them are regular with it. Besides encouraging students to share their information on a particular class or topic, teachers are now encouraging them to also create bonds and enhance social interaction among other students.Â
The pitfalls associated with SNS cannot be undermined and this is what is acting as a deterrent why many educators discourage students from operating a profile on these sites. However, as has been already mentioned, with the right knowledge about these sites, educators can direct students toward the right path and keep them away from potential threats.
Some of the other SNS that are closely following up with Facebook are ning.com and wikis.